Monday, 16 February 2015
So with that I bring you our newest feature, The BWW Monday Mailbag. If you want to get a question answered, you can tweet at me using #BWWMailbag or drop a question in the comment section. Every Monday, I will answer a handful of your questions. If you asked a question and didn’t get it answered, don’t worry, I will answer it in another mailbag.
Let’s get started with a question I have been asked on more than one occasion.
What are your thoughts on the Tiger-Cats’ new home, Tim Horton’s Field?
In one word: beautiful. But you want more than one word.
When I first entered Tim Horton’s Field back on Labour Day, I don’t think it is a stretch to say that my breath was taken away. It is a truly amazing stadium and has become a great place to watch a game. The upgrades over Ivor Wynne Stadium are many, and while that venue will always hold a special place in my heart, I have fully embraced Tim Horton’s Field.
That’s not to say the stadium doesn’t have some flaws. The biggest one being that it wasn’t completed for any of the games that were played there. I also am not a fan of the concourses, as I found them small and hard to maneuver through. Of course, that might also have been due to the unfinished nature of the place.
With the stadium only being partially completed last year, I obviously cannot give a comprehensive evaluation. I think when it is 100 per cent finished, it is going to be one of the best places to watch a game in this country.
What offseason coaching change(s) will have the most impact in 2015?
The easy answer to this one is obviously Jeff Tedford’s hiring as head coach of the BC Lions. When a team replaces the guy in charge, that move is likely to have the biggest impact of any change any team made.
But outside of Tedford, the one hire that has me the most curious is one he made for his own staff: hiring George Cortez as offensive coordinator.
Say what you want about Cortez’s disastrous one-year tenure as Hamilton’s head coach, or the seemingly acrimonious split he just went through with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but the man knows how to run an offense. The 2012 Tiger-Cats, a team that finished a dismal 6-12, had one of the most explosive and exciting offenses in the CFL that season. He won a Grey Cup in 2013 with the Riders and might have gone to another one with them had Darian Durant not gotten hurt midway through last season.
BC’s offense is loaded with weapons – Andrew Harris, Manny Arceneaux, Shawn Gore, Courtney Taylor – and a fully healthy Travis Lulay guiding a Cortez-installed offense should have Lions fans salivating at what they can accomplish. Cortez has his faults – he really does not know how to handle backup quarterbacks – but the positives outweigh the negatives. Watching what he does with the Lions offense provides the most intrigue for me.
What is the problem with Hamilton in the red zone? Is it scheme or personnel? And why do they seem to be so predictable?
This seems like a question that has been asked by Tiger-Cats fans for the better part of a decade. It seems no matter who is calling the shots or who is on the field, the Tiger-Cats just can’t execute in the red zone. The clichéd answer is that executing near the goalline is a matter of will. That the offensive line must dominate at the point of contact to allow the running back to find a hole or give the quarterback enough time to go through his reads.
Over the years we have seen flashes of red zone efficiency, but last year’s unacceptable 40 per cent success rate is hopefully the nadir of red zone ineptitude. Short yardage has been a bit of a struggle for the Cats over the last two seasons, especially, and a lot of Hamilton’s red zone woes come from their inability to punch it in from short distance, like Jeremiah Masoli’s goalline fumble on Labour Day.
It can’t be scheme or personnel or predictability because these problems have existed for years with major changes to all three areas. It might simply be a matter of the team just not executing when given the chance. But this is definitely something to keep an eye on in 2015.
Will the Argos take another step back in 2015?
As long as Ricky Ray is piloting that offense, they have a chance to win any game they play. A return to health for Andre Durie, Chad Owens and Anthony Coombs will certainly help their offense, and Ricky Foley should help take pressure off last year’s top rookie out of the East, Tristan Okpalaugo. So the Argos do have some nice pieces that might be able to keep them from falling.
However, the problem stems more from the outside than the inside. Hamilton and Montreal have surpassed the Argos. Both teams have reloaded and Ottawa has made some big moves in the hopes of bettering their two-win performance from last year. Add in a rejuvenated Winnipeg, a potential explosive offense in BC, the Stamps and Esks looking like they will still be top-level clubs and it doesn’t look good for the Argos. Even Saskatchewan was able to retain a lot of their top players, as well as acquire a really good one from Toronto.
While I won’t say that the Argos will finish in last place, it is entirely possible. All the teams around them have made changes to get better, while the Argos have pretty much stood pat. Not a wise decision for a team that missed the playoffs in 2014.
Bakari Grant… still in limbo. Why the dance? No other team interested? Cats want a bargain?
I think the answer to this is three-fold. For starters, I truly don’t think Bakari Grant wants to leave Hamilton, especially if, as rumoured, the main team interested in him is Toronto. I know that football is a business, and that he does not have to have any loyalty to the Tiger-Cats, but we are talking about a guy who put on an “ARGOS SUCK” t-shirt after the Ti-Cats beat the Argos in Toronto in the 2013 East Final.
Secondly, the Tiger-Cats are very high on Joe Anderson, who spent time on the practice roster last season. Anderson will also be playing for a salary that will probably be half of what Grant will command. By letting Grant go, they can put a player on the field that they are very high on and save a little money in the process.
But at the end of the day, money is the biggest factor. The Ti-Cats have done a lot of work trying to fit everyone into their budget, while also being mindful of future contracts they will need to extend. Adding another multi-year, six-figure deal might not fit into Hamilton’s salary structure. This is one of those times that I envision Kent Austin the general manager arguing with Kent Austin the head coach. Grant might end up being a casualty of the general manager’s future-planning prudence overriding head coach’s short-term desire to field the best possible team.